WASHINGTON, D.C. (Gannett-WUSA9) - America's most powerful Members of Congress are a hungry and thirsty bunch, and taxpayers are picking up the tab for meals, snacks, bottled water and coffee breaks.
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The Washington Guardian reviewed Congressional audit reports showing about $30,000 in food and beverage expenses among five Congressional leaders's offices during the last three months of 2012.
It includes leaders who were using tough rhetoric about cutbacks and sequestration.
"House leaders spent thousands of dollars at Harris Teeter, Whole Foods, Joe Ragan's Coffee Supplies, Dunkin' Donuts, PF Chang's, Qdoba Mexican Grill and Taylor Gourmet, just to name a few," Washington Guardian Reporter Sara Carter said.
Here's a breakdown:
Rep. John Boehner - House Speaker (R) - $11,225
Rep. Kevin McCarthy Majority Whip (R) - $9,789
Rep. Nancy Pelosi - Minority Leader (D) - $3,510
Rep. Eric Cantor -Majority Leader (R) - $2,971
Rep. Steny Hoyer - Minority Whip (D) - $1,795
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) ordered $2,200 in coffee supplies during the month of November alone.
Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy's (R-CA) office racked up a $2,500 bill at the Mexican fast food restaurant Qdoba.
Congressional office managers have several reasons for the water expenses.
One explained that staffers like to offer bottles of water to guests during meetings. Another cited concerns about lead in the water supply on Capitol Hill.
"We do have water fountains right?" asked high school economics teacher Ken Benson.
"The office provides food and beverages at large breakfast and lunch meetings," said Hoyer spokeswoman Stephanie L. Young. "As is common practice among leadership offices."
Political Science Professor Peter Hanson says as Congress forces federal agencies to slash budgets through sequestration, voters want to know what's happening with members' salaries; how are they spending money on Capitol Hill itself?
Hanson says voters also may be asking legislators "shouldn't they be tightening their own belts as they are imposing cuts elsewhere?"
Members of Congress must cut eight percent from their own office budgets due to sequestration, which started this month.
Congressional staffs say they are trying to find savings without significantly impacting services to their constituents.
Some of the changes will include less travel for staff members between district offices and Washington, D.C.
Boehner, McCarthy, Pelosi and Cantor's offices did not respond to requests for comment.
Read the full Washington Guardian article
Look up spending data for all U.S. Representatives
Melissa Blasius, KUSA/Gannett Investigations, produced this story